At least 19 foreign nationals, including 13 children, were killed in a fire that ripped through an upmarket shopping mall in Qatar yesterday, the country’s interior ministry said.
The children were from Spain, Japan, the Philippines and Benin among other countries. A Spanish diplomatic source in Madrid said four of the dead children were Spanish.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze, which media reports said broke out at a childcare area at the Villagio Mall.
Qatar’s interior ministry said that an investigation was under way.
“There don’t seem to have been any fire alarms or sprinklers at the mall,” a relative of a two-year-old child who died in the fire told Reuters, speaking by phone from Qatar’s Hamad hospital.
A ministry official said that all buildings in Qatar abided by safety regulations “with no exceptions” and that an investigative committee would be formed to look into safety requirement issues.
Smoke was seen billowing from the mall, which was evacuated. Ambulances and police vehicles blocked entry into the shopping complex.
“We tried to get to the children’s area but the extremely high heat stood in our way,” Brigadier Hamad al-Duhaimi of the Qatari civil defence told reporters.
A ministry official told journalists that none of the dead were Qataris. Four of the dead adults were teachers and the other two were civil defence personnel, the official said. Seventeen people were wounded, including four children, the official said.
Many expatriates live in Qatar, a gas and oil-rich Gulf Arab state with one of the highest standards of living in the world.